The old adage that if it doesn’t challenge you it won’t change you is certainly true, and no more so than with training in the gym. As such progressive overload is the key principle to ensuring continued progression in order for you to get bigger, stronger, leaner, faster or whatever your goal.
The problem is people make it complicated. Look through the internet and you will find a mass of programs with intricate progression plans either based off percentages or some other form of schedule progression. Often these programs work great if you can stick to them but often the adage of KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid applies and a basic progression plan is all that is needed.
Below are some of the simpler ways to progress your training:
Double progression method
This is probably the easiest way to have a bit of variety, allow you to push as hard as you want and still keep progress on a regular basis. The concept is simple, pick a repetition range based off your goal (i.e eight to twelve reps if looking for muscle growth etc) and select a weight where you can only complete in good form the lowest number in that range.
Each workout strive to do one or more additional reps until you are strong enough to do the top end number of the range. At this point increase the weight so you can only the lowest number of reps for your range. At this point repeat the process of building up the volume and then adding weight.
Kaizen is a Japanese word for improvement – typically it is about small gradual progression and the fitness method is exactly the same. For this progression system you typically choose a weight you can comfortably perform a given number of reps – for instance you might choose a weight were you can comfortably do eight reps but if you pushed yourself you could have got at least ten.
Each session you use microloading or in other words small almost indistinguishable increases in weight such as a 0.25kg plate either side of a bar. This small amount of weight wont be noticed but over weeks and months it all starts to add up and if you trained a lift just once a week and added half a kilo each time by the time the year is out you would have added 26kg to your eight rep max. Unless you are a pure beginner this rate of gain is good going.
This type of progression requires patience and a belief in the process of small accrual of gains but pays of for those with the patience.
Created and marketed by Charles Staley this system called escalating density training uses a clever yet deceptively simple principle of increasing the workload through all means of progression – intensity, volume and density. In its most basic form it revolves around you picking a time period such as five minutes, selecting a weight and trying to do as many repetitions in that time period as possible.
Each work out you try and beat your last number of reps in that time period. Once you can do ten percent more you increase the weight and repeat the process. Again simple but effective
Similar to double progression but this time your weight and reps stay constant and each session you add a set. If you choose to use a weight were you are close but not at the limit for the repetition target you have chosen and over five weeks add a set by the time you get to doing five sets with a close to repetition max weight you will be able to handle increasing the weight and doing the same repetitions with it.
For example I choose to use 100kg for five reps in the squats, I possibly could have got six at a push but leave it there, next session I do two sets and so on. By the time I am doing the bigger volume with the same weight moving back to one set of five with 105kg will feel like a holiday but rather than chilling you just build the volume back up again and repeat for as long as you can.
So there we have it – four simple yet very effective means of progressing at the gym. As with anything in life results come from hard work and application and it doesn’t need to be complex to get results regardless of the level of trainer you currently are.